Diastasis Recti: Separation of Abdominal Muscles. Often called a “Mummy Tummy,” a diastasis recti is the separation of normally joined abdominal muscles and is a common result of pregnancy. Approximately 1 in 3 women who have had a baby have this separation. Many don’t know they have this separation because it is not necessarily painful and doesn’t often get pointed out during routine visits to your doctor. When the abdominal muscles stretch during pregnancy and separate they can’t work properly and can lead to low back pain, pelvic pain, and the appearance of a flabby belly. Even if it’s not painful, it’s not normal or desirable to have this separation and can eventually lead to permanent damage to the core. If left untreated and a second pregnancy occurs, the problem gets worse and can be much more difficult to correct.
Do you have one? To find out for yourself, do the following check:
- Lay on your back, legs straight out and head on the floor
- Put your fingers on the skin in the center of your belly just above your belly button
- Slowly lift your head until your shoulder blades, the top of your back, are off the floor
- Feel for how many fingers you can fit between your belly muscles
- If you have a separation of 2 or more fingers, you have a diastasis recti
Ask your doctor to recommend a physical therapist to resolve the separation as soon as possible. You may also want to start some at-home exercises too.
Get Moving! The sooner you begin exercising and retraining abdominal muscles after an initial recovery after childbirth, the shorter and more successful your recovery will be. Be sure to do the suggested movements below or our program to ensure that you don’t make the problem worse.
Tummy Tucker: This exercise is great because it can be done in any position, anywhere. Take a deep breath and as you exhale, pull your belly muscles inward as if to cinch a corset around your middle. Hold this contraction for up to 5 seconds and remember to breathe, not hold your breath. You can practice holding this contraction for longer periods while feeding the baby, taking a shower, driving in the car, or any other time you think of it daily.
Foot Slider: Lie on the floor with your knees bent and both feet flat on the floor. Pull your belly muscles in and hold them in while sliding one leg, heal down, out straight. Slowly slide the foot back in toward your bottom to return to start position. Keep your belly muscles held in while your foot is moving. Rest and repeat with the other leg taking care not to let your back arch or move while your legs are moving.